Product: Märklin has released the first product in its My World line, the battery-powered ICE Starter Set.
Designed for children ages 3 and older, the set comes with five cars that are magnetically coupled and run on batteries. The set also includes an oval of Märklin's C Track, an infrared hand-held controller, and the AA and AAA batteries needed to run everything.
The packaging is well-done and colorful, and customers are able to open the box top to see the train inside so they know what they are buying.
The controller is small enough for little hands and the buttons are marked with pictures to indicate their functions. The user can activate the train's lights, station announcements, the horn and a door-closing sound. The station announcements are in German, but you get the idea of what's going on.
The cars are very basic but feel well constructed, and there are no little detail parts to get broken off. They are chunky enough for children to handle easily and feel well constructed.
Thanks to the use of C Track, the layout is already expandable with components from the existing line. When the child is ready for "grown-up" trains, they will already have the track on which to run it.
Performance: I wanted to play with this set as soon as it hit my desk. The box color and art are very attractive, and frankly, I was curious to see how it ran.
Fortunately I didn't have to wait long. Putting the batteries in the train and controller requires a screwdriver. The track just snaps together. Put the train on the track, connect the cars, turn the power on with the switch on the locomotive, and you're in business.
A push of a button turned on the lights; I ran through the station announcement, door closing and horn sounds just to be official (procedures, you know) and pushed the directional button. The train takes off smoothly, and speed can be increased with multiple taps of the directional buttons. Reversing direction is as simple as pressing the other button.
An oval is going to keep the child's interest for a little while, but I was curious how well the train would handle additional components like turnouts.
Adding a few in different sizes to the track posed no problems for the little train; it ran through them in both directions with no hitches.
One of the good things about this track is it's actually made to be taken apart by snapping it at an angle, so if a child does that, don't worry, he's not going to break it. It looks great, too, with the integrated roadbed.
The controller has two channels so a pair of trains can be operated on the layout. As it's infrared, you have to make sure the hand-held unit is pointed at the locomotive to make sure its receiving commands.
Marketing: This is a product that will sell itself to parents. The price is wallet-friendly, it looks good, is solidly constructed and a lot of fun.
At the price point, it's on a par with wooden train sets and while it provides a lot of play value, it is also a great entry into the hobby of model railroading.
As a hobby dealer, the product has a lot of potential for add-on sales. Märklin has put together expansion track packs, and the layout can be expanded with the components in its C Track line.
There will also be more trains. More passenger trains based on European high-speed prototypes will be out later this year, as will one that looks like an Amtrak model. A freight train is also catalogued, with add-on freight cars and loads. There will also be a working color light signal and a load set.
Be sure to have one of these where customers can try it out somewhere in your store. The oval of track is 45x30 inches, so it shouldn't be hard to find a spot in your store to put it.
Product: My World ICE Starter Set
Stock number: 441-29200
Availability: Wm. K. Walthers
• Lots of value at the price point
• Room to grow with track
• Well made, easy to use